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People today have more ways to connect than ever, but are disconnected more than ever. We have cell phones, texting, internet, My Space, Facebook, Instant Messaging, but we are disconnected from the people in the room with us. Families need spiritual unity. Marriages need to be one in the Lord. Husbands and wives need to be in spiritual agreement.
TONY EVANS ON GETTING UN-STUCK
Tony Evans, a popular black preacher from down in Texas, spoke of being on an elevator in a high-rise building. He said he’d never been particularly comfortable on such elevators. There was something about riding up and down in a little box several hundred feet off the ground that has never sat well with him. He worried that something would go wrong.
One day it did. The car he was riding in got stuck in between floors way up in the higher floors. He noted that some of the people in the car became frantic. They began to beat on the door hoping to get someone’s attention. Others began to yell in the hopes that their voices would get someone on the surrounding floors to come to the aid. But nobody heard their noise or their cries.
Then Evans quietly made his way to the front of the car, opened a little door in the wall and pulled out a telephone. Immediately he was connected with someone on the outside. He didn’t need to beat on the wall to get their attention. He didn’t need to speak loudly in the phone to receive their help. He could have whispered and they would have heard him.
Evans said that - in this world, we’re going to get "stuck" in places we aren’t comfortable with. Some people begin to beat against the walls, others cry out in dismay. But the person who trusts in the power of confident prayer knows there’s someone on the other end who hears their call and comes to their aid.
Hebrews 10:19ff tells us that we now can have "boldness" (KJV) to enter into very presence of God because of the blood of Jesus. We can think this way only because Jesus has opened the way for us to approach God’s throne and earnestly ask whatever we desire according to His Will.
The whole area of service is a very important one in the Christian life. The importance can be seen in the difference between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea in the Holy Land. The two bodies of water are connected by the Jordan River in a direct north-south line along the Great Rift Valley. Clear, sweet water from underground springs flows into the Sea of Galilee. And the Sea of Galilee flows south into the Jordan. Galilee is a gorgeous, active lake, full of life that has sustained fishermen in the region for millennia. The Dead Sea, by contrast, is a shallow, selfish basin with no outlet. It hoards the water that flows into it. Some water evaporates, leaving behind brackish, clouded water so dense that swimmers bob like corks. The whole sea is dead.
When we as Christians have no outlet of service, we too can become spiritually dead, and stagnant. Instead of our faith being attractive, life giving and fruitful, we become as off-putting as a stagnant pond.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRISTMAS TO AMERICANS
The Barna Research Group poll, conducted for the Lutheran Hour Ministries found that:
37% of adults in the national survey (88% of whom identified themselves as Christian) said the birth of Jesus is the most important aspect of Christmas.
More than 75% of evangelical Christians placed Jesus’ birth as of first importance on Christmas.
Only 32% of those who identified themselves as fundamentalists gave that answer.
Only 29% of Catholics placed Jesus’ birth first.
Only 24% of theological liberals said the birth of Christ made Christmas important for them.
44% of the respondents said family time is the most important part of one of the three most sacred days (along with Good Friday and Easter) on the calendar.
26% of respondents ages 18 to 34 said the birth of Jesus was the most important aspect of Christmas.
39% among respondents 65 and older said the same thing.
Only 3% said presents or parties were the most important part of Christmas. The same percentage that said the best thing about Christmas was getting a paid holiday.
"I guess it demonstrates what preachers have been wringing their hands over for some time: Christ has been evacuated from Christmas," said the Rev. William Willimon, a theologian and Duke University chaplain. "It’s good to know where we are. Christmas has been a co-opted holiday."
"Americans are more likely to correctly recall the significance of April 15 than they are to connect Christmas with the birth of ...
D. Greg Ebie
Imagine that we are putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle. In turn we each put pieces into place; slowly the beauty of the picture begins to take shape. As we continue putting the puzzle together we talk about what it would be like to be a part of the scene before us. As the final pieces are being put into place we are suddenly confronted with the fact that our picture is incomplete; 4 pieces are missing. How do you feel about all our work together knowing that it will forever remain incomplete?
Now imagine that instead of missing pieces, the puzzle is alive. As the final pieces are being put into place they change shape and refuse to be joined together with the adjoining pieces. Or worse yet we watch as parts of the puzzle we have put together suddenly separate and pieces leave the table. How do you feel knowing that the beauty of the image being put together will never be finished, because the pieces won’t cooperate with each other?
I wonder if that is sometimes how God feels about His church? He fits people together only to find that some are missing, or individuals which He has purposed to join together refuse to be connected or deliberately separate from each other. I know that there have been times when I have had those kind of feelings.
Lyle Schaller in speaking about the challenges of the church said - "The biggest challenge for the church at the opening of the twenty-first century is to develop a solution to the discontinuity and fragmentation of the American lifestyle." (The Connecting Church, Randy Frazee, p. 37)
FRANKL AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
When Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II and put in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, he was stripped of everything: property, family, possessions, and a manuscript he had spent years researching and writing on finding meaning in life. The manuscript had been sewn into the lining of his coat.
"Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own," Frankl wrote. "I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning."
A few days later, the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up what little clothing they still wore. "I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber," said Frankl. "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the Jewish prayer 'Shema Yisrael' (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)
"How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence' other than as a challenge to 'live' my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?"
Frankl later reflected on his ordeal in Man's Search for Meaning, saying, "There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is meaning in one's life.... He who has a 'why' to live for can bear almost any 'how.' "
[Based on Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (Pocket, 1997). Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (241). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]
THE ENERGY OF PRAISE
A study was done by psychologist Dr. Henry H. Goddard, on energy levels in children.
He used an instrument he called the "ergograph." How he ever got some children to stand still long enough to connect them to the machine is a mystery. But he did, and his findings are fascinating.
He found that when tired children are given a word of praise or encouragement, the ergograph shows an immediate upward surge of new energy. When the children are criticized and discouraged, the ergograph shows their physical energy take a sudden nose-dive.
Those results could be probably be duplicated i...
Sermon Central Staff
Although at times it seems as though the church is in ruin and rubble, God sees it as a beautiful building.
Clinker bricks are bricks that did not quite make it. For some reason or another, they come out of the kiln misshapen or deformed. I read about a Presbyterian Church in New York State that was intentionally built of clinker bricks. Apparently, the congregation wanted to send a message, so they build their church of imperfect, rejected bricks. [“Clinker bricks and Ebenezers,” May 2, 1999, Exeter Congregational United Church of Christ Web Site, users.rcn.com.] The message is that we are all clinker bricks, we are sinners, we are imperfect people full of follies and foibles, but through Christ we become living stones in his church.
We do not become living stones because we are so great. It is Christ who is great. We are connected into his church through him.
(From a sermon by Larry Wise, Precious In His Sight, 2/24/2010)
She was nearly blind. She was born on April 14, 1866 to Irish immigrants. Life was hard and from the age of three her vision began to fail. To add insult to injury, Annie’s mother died at when she was eight to tuberculosis. Her younger two sisters were farmed out to relatives. Annie tried to care for her father by herself. But at the age of nine, she was sent to Massachusetts State Poorhouse in Tewksberry. He poor vision, though, became a blessing in disguise and at the age of fourteen a new institute welcomed her into their open arms, the Perkins Institute for the blind.
Six years later, Annie at the age of twenty would graduate from college. Then on March 3, 1887, Annie stepped from a train into a small town in Alabama where she was met by a young mother named Kate. Kate had a daughter who had been born with all of her senses but at the age of nineteen months she had become deaf and blind. Kate’s daughter was named Helen.
So began the fascinating story of a teacher who was almost blind, who opened the world to a seven year old child, who couldn’t see, who couldn’t speak, who couldn’t hear. Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller would be inseparable in life. It was indeed, the blind leading the blind.
In fact they would even be united in death for in Washington Cathedral, along with presidents, life Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith, there would be a special chapel reserved for them and there Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller would be buried in that chapel, together in Washington’s Cathedral.
It was long after Annie’s death that Helen Keller spoke at a ceremony at Radcliffe College where she had gone and received her degree. That day a fountain was being dedicated in honor of Annie Sullivan, Helen’s teacher. Although Helen could speak at this time, although Helen was a prolific author at this time, although Helen was a world traveler at this time and welcomed in the halls of Parliament and in the courts of kings and queens. Although was a highly intelligent woman and had made speeches all over the world. . . . . but on that day, emotion overwhelmed Helen and when it came time for her to speak at the dedication of the flowing fountain, she uttered one word. One word. . . . . just one word. The same word that was signed into her hand over and over and over by her teacher. The word that had opened her world. The word that had connected her back to the land of the living. At that moment, standing before a fountain in Boston, Helen’s mind went back to a little Alabama town where she had raced from the house so frustrated and went to her favorite hideout by the well.
Her teacher, Annie, had found her there and she had began to pump water from the well and as it splashed over Helen’s hands, Annie began to sign that one word over and over again into Helen’s hands. Until from the memory dredged up when she was nineteen months old, she remembered a word, a word that she had spoken, and she began to try to speak that single word. That same word that the now-eloquent Helen spoke at a dedication ceremony, seventy-three years later. The shortest public speech in history, a single word. That word. . . . . water.
I found a quote from Annie Sullivan. She said, “Love is something like the clouds that are in the sky. You can’t touch them, you know. But you feel the rain and you know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You can’t touch love either. . . But you can feel the sweetness that it pours into everything.”